AP bureaucrats rankled as YSRCP govt resorts to political witch-hunt

Political interference, groupism on caste lines, ego clashes and turf war have resulted in a steady deterioration of the work culture

Political interference, groupism on caste lines, ego clashes and turf war have resulted in a steady deterioration of the work culture.

Vendetta is the name of the game in Andhra Pradesh, be it politics or administration. Whether it is reviving old cases against political opponents or harassment of officials considered close to the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) regime, many of the decisions of the Jagan Mohan Reddy government appear to be guided by political vindictiveness.

From suspensions and foisting cases to unceremonious shunting to loop line posts, the top bureaucrats are at the receiving end of a political witch-hunt. The groupism and infighting are further deepening the bureaucratic muddle.

On one hand, a string of policy reversals by the chief minister has created a negative perception among potential investors while on the other a sense of despondency has gripped the state administration following actions targeting IAS and IPS officials who are seen as being close to the previous regime.

Former intelligence chief suspended  

The suspension of former intelligence chief A.B. Venkateshwara Rao, in connection with the alleged misconduct and procedural irregularities in the bid for purchase of surveillance equipment from Israel, is the latest in a series of moves widely seen as vindictive.

The trend started in November last year when the chief secretary V.V. Subramanyam was unceremoniously shifted to a nondescript posting. Curiously, the transfer order was signed by a junior officer in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO). The chief secretary was suddenly shunted out, ostensibly for ‘deviating’ from the policies set by the chief minister.

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The move, widely seen as a sign of arrogance and administrative ignorance on the part of the chief minister, had set off ripples in the bureaucratic circles.

The latest action against Venkateshwara Rao, a 1989-batch IPS officer of the DGP rank, on a purchase deal that did not actually materialise, has provided fodder to the opposition narrative that the YSR Congress Party government is bent upon targeting officials of a particular community.

Rao, who was the intelligence chief during the previous regime, belongs to the Kamma community, considered a strong support base of the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP.

“Such actions will adversely affect the morale of the administration,” says senior analyst Prof K. Nageshwar.

Deteriorating work culture

Political interference, groupism on caste lines, ego clashes and turf war have resulted in a steady deterioration of the work culture.

In the past, Chandrababu Naidu, known for his penchant for administrative reforms, did make some efforts, particularly in his first term as CM of the combined Andhra Pradesh in the late 1990s, to change the work culture at the Secretariat.

Positioning himself as CEO of AP Inc., he sought to bring in corporate culture in the administration and encouraged the adoption of Information Technology tools to improve administrative efficiency. The senior bureaucrats were also given training in yoga, meditation and there used to be regular workshops for senior officers on positive thinking and work-life balance.

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Now, there is a growing politicisation of the administration. The way the chief secretary’s transfer was handled, exposed Jagan’s inability to get a grip on the administration. Apparently, much time and energy is being spent on identifying senior bureaucrats deemed close to his predecessor and posting them in loop line assignments.

“CMO is becoming an institution with all powers and no responsibility and is responsible for the downfall of CMs who are failing to control it,” former chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao said. “Though CM has all the powers to replace a chief secretary, the manner in which it was done is unfortunate and avoidable,” he said.

Selective information

Initially, the media was informed by an unnamed official that a departmental inquiry against Venkateshwara Rao had revealed that he colluded with an Israeli defence equipment manufacturing firm RT Inflatables Pvt Ltd to ‘illegally award critical intelligence and surveillance contract’ to his son Chetan Sai Krishna, who is the CEO of Akasam Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd.

However, the suspension order issued last week cited misconduct as the reason without mentioning any of the serious charges like irregularities and nepotism.

The IPS officer’s son has issued a statement, saying he was never associated with any contract works with the state government.

The officer was placed under suspension under Rule 3(1) of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 in public interest with immediate effect, pending initiation of disciplinary proceedings.

“The inquiry further revealed that Rao had wilfully disclosed intelligence protocols and procedures of police to the foreign Defence manufacturing firm, which was a direct threat to national security as intelligence protocols are standard throughout the Indian Police Force,” an unnamed spokesman had told the media.

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“The use of substandard equipment by the police force may put them in a dangerous situation. It would give access to the foreign firm to state secrets and it could lead to monopoly overall future procurements,” the official said, quoting an inquiry report which was not made public.

It also alleged that the technical committee purposefully did not include any person from relevant technical background, leading to improper and poor technical due diligence. “Technical specifications and contract requirements and warranty period were downgraded on purpose to allow incompetent bidders to qualify. All other companies participating in the bid lacked technical credentials and relevant experience and are suspected as dummy participants created for the purpose of rigging the tender process,” the official had said.

Rao was shifted from the post following complaints from YSRCP leaders in the run-up to the general elections and later posted as the DGP of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. However, after the change of guard in the state, he was attached to the headquarters without being given any posting since June last year.

Truth will come out

On his part, the IPS officer denied the charges and said he was exploring legal options to fight for justice. “I am not distressed by it, so don’t worry about it. I am exploring legal options. Truth will be revealed in due course,” he said in a statement.

“Being a victim of politically motivated disinformation campaign and mudslinging, I’m making a request to stop dragging my name on to the streets. Otherwise, I have no option but to seek legal remedies for defamation,” the officer’s son Sai Krishna said.

He said that he never used his father or his office for any business activity or financial gain nor did he ever participate in any government-related tenders.

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